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Elopement & Summertime – Let’s let the secret out and save a life
This post is brought to you by Sarah, an Autism Mom and an AngelSense Customer Support Expert.
It is amazing to me how parents of autistic children are not warned about the dangers of summer vacation and increased risk of elopement. Ohhhh, Elopement, how foreign that word once was to me. My son was diagnosed with Autism at age 3. No healthcare provider, therapist or educator ever once mentioned the possibility of wandering, not once. I think this is because until a child has an incident where they wander, no one sees the need to mention it. I want to do everything I can to change that. I want to change the stories we hear from being tragically reactive to successfully proactive.
Please spread the word that everyday summertime activities have a higher risk for wandering!!! I wish this was plastered across billboards and social media to warn families like ours! This time of year your child is struggling being out of his/her school time routine, family visits creating distractions and more possibilities of doors being left unlocked, travel to unknown/unsecure locations increases and the exposure to bodies of water skyrockets. These seemingly harmless summertime activities can be deadly for children with disabilities! This time of year you can never be too cautious or prepared and with AngelSense you have the tools to build cherished summer memories with your entire family.
My son was not a runner until the day he realized he was tall enough to reach our deadbolt, and walked out our front door and up our neighborhood street. I recall very well the first time he went missing, the blood curdling scream that escaped me, as I yelled his name, knowing there was no chance he could answer. As I write this all these years later, I still have tears in my eyes and an unbearable tightness in my chest. It is pure luck our family was not another statistic or sad story on the news.
After this first horrid event, we put special locks and alarms on our doors and never let our son out of our sight. We gave up on ideas of summer vacations. How could we ever travel when we struggle to keep our son from escaping our own home?!?!? We desperately longed to give our son and his siblings the childhood memories like summers that we cherished as children, roasting marshmallows on a campout, day trips to the beach and catching fireflies by the lake. Then we found AngelSense, and all of these lost hopes became real life possibilities. This amazing device along with door alarms, glow in the dark tape, and medical alert bracelet we have ventured on many wonderful family vacations (although often filled with rocky moments and a few meltdowns), and as of last summer our first camping trip!
I want all the parents in our situation to first know you are not alone! We have stood in your shoes and with repeated efforts, the right tools and modifications based on your child’s needs you can have that dream family vacation. It may not be exactly what you pictured or fit into the same picture perfect facebook post other families you know are plastering all over social media. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be magical, it can be fun for every member of your family and above all, it can be done SAFELY!
The last trip we took we went to a very busy beach, my mother-in-law and younger sister-in- law joined us. On the car ride down I gave everyone a task (my emergency plan) in case my son were to wander. My mother-in-law was to call 911 and alert hotel security, my-sister-in law was to take our younger kids back to the hotel room, while my husband and I used our AngelSense app to locate our son, first covering the nearest exit and pool. In addition, I used the AngelSense ‘share live location’ feature, to send everyone the live link to my son’s app. This makes it easy for all of us to easily keep an eye on him and in an emergency, easily forward the app link to any first responders. Just having a plan and the tools we need on hand when traveling eases my anxiety and makes it possible for me to truly be present and enjoy our trips.
Trust me when I say: We are GOOD parents, heck we are AMAZING parents, but when your kid is a runner, no amount of supervision will ever be enough! Be proactive and prepare for the dangers summer can bring to our special needs children.